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The Real Reason Fry's First Name Is Philip On Futurama

Matt Groening and David X. Cohen put a lot of thought into the world-building on "Futurama." The big backstory plot twists had been planned since the show's inception, and hints were embedded as early as the pilot. The writers thought about what societal changes would have happened to New New York in 1000 years. Owls are the new pests, replacing rats. Global warming happened, but nuclear winter canceled it out. Until the events of "Bender's Game," all transportation runs on clean-burning dark matter. And the wheel has been completely replaced with hover technology, which necessitates its reinvention in "Mother's Day." 

As much care went into creating and naming the characters. Leela was named after "Turangalîla," a symphony by Olivier Messaien (according to an LA Weekly profile of Groening). Bender, beyond being named after his function as a bending robot, takes his name from Judd Nelson's character in "The Breakfast Club" (per Mental Floss). Professor Farnsworth is named after the inventor of the television, Philo Farnsworth, who is his canon ancestor on the show. But Fry's name is the most meaningful of all.

Philip J. Fry is a loving tribute to three men

On "Futurama," Philip J. Fry gets his name from a few places. The J initial is one he shares with Homer J. and Bart J. Simpson. The creator of "Futurama" Matt Groening was more notably the creator of "The Simpsons" first. He explained in a Season 10 "The Simpsons" commentary that he gives his protagonists a J middle name in tribute to Bullwinkle J. Moose from "Rocky and Bullwinkle" and his creator, Jay Ward. 

Fry gets his first name from two men: Matt Groening's father Homer Philip Groening, and former "Saturday Night Live" performer Phil Hartman. Besides his live-action work, Hartman voiced Troy McClure and Lionel Hutz on "The Simpsons." Hartman was murdered shortly before "Futurama" began, and he was slated to voice Zapp Brannigan on "Futurama." Fry's voice actor, Billy West, said in a TV Squad interview that Fry's first name became Philip in tribute to the late Hartman. But Groening said at a 2013 Comic-Con panel that Fry was named after his dad, just like Homer Simpson. 

In a way, both can be true. Perhaps the name Philip was already chosen in honor of Groening's father before Hartman's death, but conveniently, that name was also able to serve as a tribute to the late comedian without changing anything. So Philip J. Fry can thank three men for his name: Homer Philip Groening, Phil Hartman, and Jay Ward.